Pedal PGH 2015

At the top of the South Side in the morning
At the top of the South Side in the morning

It will be a yearly tradition now and the 2016 edition of Pedal PGH was as great as the previous one. The metric century course (about 62 miles with ~5000 feet of elevation) is really nice with many good outlooks and good spots all around the city. It took about 5:30 to finish the whole things with several stops. The ride is really well organized and marked, with several aid stations along the course. If you like to bike, consider attending the event next year, there are courses for all levels, from 25 miles to 62 miles!

Pedal PGH 2015

Join the FAAP 5K/10K on September 06, 2015

On September 06, 2015, the FAAP Classic 5K/10K will take place in North Park. This is a friendly race around Pittsburgh that benefits the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh (FAAP). I already run this race in 2013 but at that time, was injured and had a hard time finishing the race. I will be back this year and should rock it!

The race is very cheap ($20) and a lot of fun. So sign up, run and have fun!

Join the FAAP 5K/10K on September 06, 2015

Avoid the flat, Hit the hills and Run Pittsburgh!

hillsWhen looking for a race, people usually are looking for flat or downhill courses. Two years ago, when volunteering in Richmond to present the Pittsburgh marathon I was surprised to see how many runners were reluctant to sign up because of the elevation profile. The city is known for its hills and the race directors did a great job to avoid steep hills (look at the five steepest hills to get a general idea). But when presenting the course, you have to come with an elevation chart to convince them it was not too hilly.

The general idea is that a flat course (or a downhill one) will be easier on your legs and require less efforts. Of course, this is obvious you are going faster on a flat course but was the elevation never change, you are working the same muscle group. And if you choose a downhill race, this can also put a lot of stress on your joints. Even for a flat race, you are putting all the efforts on the same muscles group and exhaust them until the last mile. If you are going to try to qualify for a particular time (Boston qualifier anyone?), this can be (1) very exhausting and (2) hard to recover as your body is not used to such long and intense efforts on the same muscles.

That might seem odd but running a race with some elevation variation can be easier on your body. As your running form is changing according to the elevation, you are not using the same muscles and when a muscle group is used, the other can rest for a while. Of course, this will not be easy, but if you are trained and used to take some hills, it will be definitively easier.

One example on the east coast is Erie and Pittsburgh. Erie is a big Boston Qualifier race: very flat, the course takes place in what one might consider as ideal conditions (perfect temperature most of the time, completely flat race). This is a two 13.1 loops on Presque Isle. Needless to say, pretty boring: after the first loop, you have only one wish, finish as soon as possible. On the other hand, Pittsburgh (or even Richmond) have some slight hills and is considered more difficult. But as long as you are used to run some hills, your body will recover quicker. And the course is nicer: you experience most of the neighborhood and the volunteers are pretty awesome. No matter if you are a Pittsburgh native or a new visitor: you will experience the city from a different perspective. Better than doing two loops on the same course. If you never experience the Steel City, I just recommend to come and experience this race. This would show you why Pittsburgh is one of the best city to live in the USA.

keep-calm-and-love-pittsburgh-6

Avoid the flat, Hit the hills and Run Pittsburgh!

Morris “Doc” Turner 5K Run/Walk

Unfortunately, this will not be an undie run
Unfortunately, this will not be an undie run

Everybody knows that I love running long distances, being outside of the city and admire the nature at work. The loneliness of the trails, the beauty of the trees, the rivers, all of this helps me to meditate and get rid of the daily stress. This is my outlet, my way to replenish my energy.

This is why I invite you to join the Morris “Doc” Turner 5K, a wonderful run in the city that will take place on a wonderful Sunday (May, 31). This race is all about what I love: short distance in the city, it is gonna be packed with A LOT of folks! So, why should you sign up? There are a few reasons:

  1. This event is promoted by a Steel City Road Runners friend, who is awesome and love running. She is awesome, probably not as much as the author of this website, but just for that, you should sign up.
  2. You support your local community: this event raises resources for the Highland Park Tennis Club’s Dr. Morris E. Turner Medical Scholarship which will be presented to a student in the Gateway Medical Society who is majoring in the medical field and for the Highland Park Tennis Club’s Free Summer Tennis Clinic
  3. There is a team for cool kids, called SCRR4EVER. This is dedicated to the Steel City Road Runners members but all the cool kids are welcome. So if you do not come, you are not a cool kid at all.
  4. If the weather is great, we can hang out together afterwards in the park. There will be yoga and exercises classes, music, food – everything for a great party!
  5. You can run there, do the race, have a good time with your friends and run back. Yep, an ultra for the price of a 5K (with food to fuel you in between)

As the event is a run or walk, there is no reason to pass. Sign up today on active.com and join the team SCRR4EVER.

Hope to see you there on May, 31!

Morris “Doc” Turner 5K Run/Walk

Steel City Road Runners is better than Ever (aka “Stepping Down – Last Part”)

Several months ago, after being involved as an ambassador of the Steel City Road Runners for few weeks, I left the ambassador groups and I authored a first blog post. The goal was to list the issues I noticed while being on board. After several weeks, several folks discussed their frustration which motivated me to write a follow-up. The reception to these articles showed how much people care about this group. The main reported issue was the organization of the leadership team and a focus on non-running activities whereas there were several emergencies to deal with.

No need to run in the cold, SCRR offers indoor training when it is freezing!
No need to run in the cold, SCRR offers indoor training when it is freezing!

But change happened. The organization of the leadership team has been reseted significantly and this is noticeable to see how much change there is. Let me list some of what has been introduced during the last two months, congratulations to the folks (such as Dave and Shannon – and all the others !) that are behind the scene:

  • Pacing team: there is pacers for Saturday and Sunday runs so that each runner can train according to their need. Also, if you want to take part of the community and become a pacer, the group welcomes participants, which can be a great idea if you want to pace a race.
  • Sunday Training runs: you cannot make your run on Saturday? Join on Sunday! SCRR is now offering Sunday runs as well so that you can log your long run on Sunday as well. Just a great idea if you have constraints on Saturday, have family business to take care of or any other reason. Just a convenient option.
  • Indoor Training: concerned about the ice when it is freezing and still want to run with your running buddies? the club has worked indoor running options with local gyms. Obviously, this is a very good option: running outside when freezing can be hazardous (and will not argue, especially after being injured because of it) and can jeopardize your racing schedule for the next days/weeks/months. The club provides a very cheap training options with cardio machines, which can also be a good option for cross-training.
  • Communication Improvements: most of the communication was done on facebook but many members do not use social media websites and felt isolated. Now, a weekly e-mail sent on Monday lists all the club events. Simple and very efficient, it does not discriminate anybody who is not on social media platforms.
  • Fall Marathon: the club has negotiated a discount for the club to go to the Baltimore marathon on October, 17. This should be a new invasion of Pittsburgh runners. Sounds like there is an effort to change the location of a fall marathon periodically so that people can explore different races around the Steel City!
  • RRCA coaching: SCRR is organizing an RRCA coach training in Pittsburgh and has initially announced it to the club so that interested members can save a spot! Such classes can be old out very quickly. Having a coaching class in our city is a real privilege: you do not have to flight, travel, everything is on site. This also strengthen the community: having more certified coaches within the members is a good opportunity to have qualified people when organizing events (such as running with kids, pacing, participating to a race as an organizer, etc.)

There are obviously other reasons and facts that show how much the club has improved during these past weeks but these are facts: a measure of how things improved over time. For sure, we can still argue that some stuff can be improved (some stupid geeks will complain about the website) but actual leadership team is focused on improving this running community and focusing on what people want to do: run. I am surprised how quickly things improved within the last few weeks and the changes that have been made.

This probably makes Steel City Road Runners the best running community in Pittsburgh (call it “premier running club” if you want!). For the $30 membership per year, no other club matches its benefits (mostly: 4 training runs per week, indoor training, pacers and Pittsburgh marathon week end, discount in local and online stores, t-shirt included with each membership). The value is just great and other clubs charge more and/or have less benefits (no pacer, only one or two training runs, no indoor trainings with cardio and weight machines when temperature are unsafe). These changes make me very proud to be part of this community and hope to be able to support it in the future as I wanted to do. If you are looking for a friendly running club in Pittsburgh, Steel City Road Runners is just what you need.

 

Steel City Road Runners is better than Ever (aka “Stepping Down – Last Part”)

Pittsburgh 2015 Race Guide

After running more than 3500 miles and a few races in 2014 (including 7 half-marathons, 5 marathons, 1 50K and one 50M – complete list here), there is a list of good races in the Pittsburgh area. As many running friends are asking for good race, I hope such a list could be useful! This is definitively not complete and you might find your perfect race elsewhere. However, I am hoping this might help some runners out there!

Happy new year 2015 and run happy!

Finish are of Run Around the Square
Finish are of Run Around the Square

5K & 10K

There are a lot of small races: easy to organize, they do not need to much administrative work (compared to half-marathon of full marathons) and many folks can join (you can even walk a 5K within a hour). There is a good choices for 5K and 10K around. The following are particularly recommended:

  • Run Around the Square (August): very friendly 5K that includes a beer stop and hot dogs at the finish. The race go into Frick park and can be challenging for beginners. Even if the race can be seen as expensive (almost $30), Forbes Magazine reported that you can eat for two days after running so it pays off. See the race website and the 2014 race report.
  • The Steel City Road Runners “Flash 5K” (several races during Summer): the Steel City Road Runners club organize Flash 5K. These are a series of 5K around the city. Races are free of charge and very friendly. You need to be a member of the club, but considering the membership price, this is definitively not too expensive. It gives you an opportunity to gauge your performance without paying an expensive entry fee. See http://steelcityrrc.org/
  • The FAAP Fall Classic 5K or 10K (September): yes, the website sucks but the race is fun! With a registration of $20 that supports a charity, this is a fun race in North Park. Different from the hype of many other race, it can be also challenging for runners not used to trails! See the website http://faap5krace.yolasite.com for more information and the race report of 2013.
  • Marathon week-end 5K (May): yep, the highlight of this week-end is definitively the marathon on Sunday. But the marathon week-end has also a fun 5K, a great way to get started for the week-end! At $40, this is definitively an expensive race but if you are just looking for a first race and discover the marathon events, this is a good event to go. More information on the race website.
  • The Great Race 5K or 10K (September): never run it so far but heard a lot of good things inside the running community. The route is not too difficult and the event is really big. More information on the race website.

Half-Marathon

  • Dirty Kiln (April): dirty kiln is not a race, this is a real challenge! There are two options: a 5 miles and a half-marathon. This is a very challenging course on muddy trails. Very cheap (between $25 and $30), friendly with Pizza at the finish, this is a must-do if you are looking to run trails! More information on the race website or the 2014 race report.
  • Pittsburgh Half-Marathon (May): looking for a half-marathon and not running the Pittsburgh marathon? Do the Marathon! And if you are a member of the Steel City Road Runners, you will have access to a pre-race breakfast and finisher area! More information on the race website.
  • Run to Read (January): a very low-key half-marathon in West Virginia in January that benefits the Volunteer. More information on the race website on the race report.
Finish of the Pittsburgh Marathon!
Finish of the Pittsburgh Marathon!

Marathon

  • Pittsburgh Marathon (May): of all marathons I have done so far, the Pittsburgh marathon is probably one of the best experience. The race is very well organized, go through many different neighborhoods and let you discover the city. More information on the race website or the 2014 race report.
  • Richmond Marathon (November): probably the best marathon I ran after Pittsburgh. The route is beautiful, the support across the different neighborhood is fantastic. One issue: it is far from the Burgh, so, you’d better make a week end of it rather than driving on race day! More information on the race website or the 2013 race report.
  • Erie Marathon (September): flat course with two loops, it can be boring if you expect to have different views during your race. However, Erie is a very easy and scenic course in Presque Isle. Plus, this is a Boston Qualifier race, so, if you want to qualify to go to Boston, this is a good candidate! This event used to have a half and full marathons but, because it is a popular Boston Qualifier, it will be only a full marathon for 2015. More information on the race website, the 2013 race report and the 2014 race report.
  • Columbus Marathon (October): I never run the Columbus marathon but heard many good thing about it! If you want a wonderful fall race, this might be the one for you! More information on the race website.
15636974252_f5e26af82c_o
On the Laurel Highland Trail

50K

  • Laurel Highlands (June): a challenging 50K or 70 miles race. The first 8 miles have more than 1500 feet of elevation which are very hard to climb. The support is limited (not as many aid stations as in other races) but this is definitively a wonderful and scenic course. If you are in love with trails, this one should be on your list! Be careful, the races have a hard cap and are sold out every year! More information on the race website.
  • Groundhog Fall 50K (May): The biggest surprise of 2014 with Dirty Kiln and Rock’n the Knobb. One of the most friendly race, a lot of support with aid stations about every 5 miles (with people baking cookies for the runners!) or so, a very affordable race ($25 for 25K or $50 for 50K), support of veterans and team RWB. Very good first ultra (if you do the 50K) or trail race (for the 25K). The race director is very friendly (however, a new RD will take over in 2015). More information on the race website or the 2014 race report.

Misc

  • EQT 10 milers (November): there are not so many 10 milers races in this area. The Pittsburgh 10 milers is definitively a good race even is the route is not so scenic. For the price, it provides a good workout and provides the ability to log a long run on a Sunday. If you like to run in the city, this is worth to have a look at this race. See the race website for more information or the race report for more information about the race.
  • Rock’n the Knob (September): a trail run organized by the Allegheny Trail Runner group. Very hilly and challenging course! There is a 5 and 20 miles option to accommodate different running needs! This is a very friendly race and there is a beer brewed just for the race! Definitively a good one if you plan to run on trails! More information on the race website or 2014 race report.
Hungry to pace!
Hungry to pace at EQT!
Pittsburgh 2015 Race Guide

Stepping down

Talking about the Steel City Road Runner club is not. After 18 months, being part of this group is one of the reason I loved this city so much. I will remember forever my first run with SCRR, my first discussion with Shannon about this club and the difficulty to understand each other because of my frenchy accent. This is also how I met Jon, the dude that inspires me to run ultra marathons (the guy ran several four 100 milers the same year). I was definitively hooked: running was part of a new lifestyle, not just a thing to stay healthy and in shape. It started to be my religion, my drug, my addiction and the Steel City Road Runners became the church when I got my regular fix. For that reason, I wanted to give back to the group, contribute and improve it. As the group was getting more popular, new leaders were required and volunteer positions were posted. I applied immediately: I wanted to give, be part of the magic of this group. I was nervous to be rejected: what if I do not qualify? What if I am too weak and not good enough to be part of this group? After a couple of weeks, the decision came on July, 31: I was selected as an Ambassador. I was then able to be part of the community and propose my own improvements! It was an opportunity: the club was growing and faced many challenges. I was then happy to be part of the team that will address these concerns.

However, after more than three months into the program, I am sad to say that it is probably better to step down. I will try to summarize why I stepped down, and what are the problems SCRR is facing now.

How it happens

Once I was selected, all Ambassadors had a meeting with the new group leader, a new employee from the marathon office that was now in charge of the club and coordinate all volunteers. The meeting was very confusing: we were not invited to introduce ourselves (our name was not even asked!) and we were required to provide idea but were not invited to present them.

The only objective that was discussed was to increase the number of members. Make SCRR bigger. Growing. Talking quantity. Not quality. I thought my objective was to represent the members and act for their best interest. So I tried to talk about their concerns and talk about what they reported:

  • no restroom: we were previously offered to use the marathon office bathrooms for our events. Unfortunately, as the club was growing, this created some issues related to having a big crowd in a small space. A member broke a window, others hang out after the run. We were no longer welcome and for a good reason. However, we still need to offer bathroom. I proposed several alternatives but they was always turned down.
  • pre- and post-run, no post-run nutrition: SCRR previously provided post-run nutrition and snacks. This was done by using $50 gift card from sponsors and buy chocolate milk and snacks at a grocery store. It was a good way to finish the run and refuel: people hang out a little longer, discuss and connect each other. Now, people are hungry and come back home right after the run (or get breakfast somewhere) soon rather than staying around. Was was a great way to connect with the rest of the group after a good workout. The club no longer provides that. The new club representative reported that is was “not a priority”.
  • membership perks: all the membership benefits were removed from the website. Looking at it, there was no longer a good reason to be part of SCRR. The webpage was not talking about the perks on the day of the marathon. Nothing about the runningwarehouse.com discount code (just 15% off with free shipping!). Nothing about having supported runs (of course, they no longer exist!).

After expressing these concerns, the meeting was over and it was promised that these concerns will be addressed in a timely manner. This was three months ago.

 

Feeling cold because you have to go to a portable toilet in the snow during our run? Not a problem, our sponsor offers a pair of socks! Lucky you!
Feeling cold because you have to go to a portable toilet in the snow during our run? Not a problem, our sponsor offers a pair of socks! Lucky you!

 

Follow-up

A second meeting took place on October, 13. The meeting started with a 5 minutes video totally meaningless about team building. The same type of video you watched to build self-confidence that you can manage a project or lead a team. None of the issues reported previously were addressed or even considered, the new club representative considered them as a “low priority” (words repeated several times). Regarding the concerns expressed previously by the members:

  • no restroom: it was ok to use the restroom again without evidence or document. As we need to prepare the marathon training program, it was critical to have a place we can rely on. After asking for more details, I was offered (in an e-mail signed by the new representative and the CEO of the marathon office) that as a volunteer, I was invited to repair the damages done by the club members. It showed all the consideration the office has for its volunteers and ambassadors and the plan to use them as a cheap labor.
  • pre- and post-run nutrition: it was reported by the new group leader that this was not a priority and that it did not matter. I was amazed that a new person in the group seem to know what the members wanted (in that case, why are we supposed to report members feedback and suggestions?). A coach told me that if people comes for that, it was better not to have them in the group. I was also surprised by such an aggressive behavior. So, I made my experiment to see how much it would cost to provide support. I organized a unsupported run with 18 people and provides post-run snacks and nutrition. It costs me roughly $15 and half of it left after the run. After working on number, it seems that offering post-run nutrition would cost between $2000 and $3000 per year. With an operating budget of $40k, it seems we could afford that. Instead, I was offered (still by the representative and CEO of the marathon office) to find local dairy provider and have a sponsor agreement to get post-run food. This showed the marathon office priority for the club.
  • membership perks: the only update was focused on non-running perks such as discount for food or cultural events. Even if a running group can grow as a social group, it must adhere to basic and core values. Providing support for runners must be and stay the first priority for such a club. By putting support as a low-priority and starting to highlight social perks clearly shows the new focus of the group.

At that point, it seems clear that the club was no longer focused on supporting its members but to forcethem to embrace a specific vision. Finally, the meeting agenda focused on other minor aspects. It then started to be clear that we were not used to provide feedback but just spread and good word and believe in the proposed propaganda.

 

Exclusive discount for SCRR members, forget the 15% at running warehouse we have since several years and that is better!
Exclusive discount for SCRR members: forget the 15% at running warehouse we have since several years and that is better! For information, the Fleet Feet discount is shown on the members perks while the Running Warehouse is hidden. Why?

 

Forget your Freedom of speech

One of the topic during the meeting was the social media policy. When joining the facebook group, SCRR members acknowledge to respect the group rules. The rules are basic: no defamatory message, personal attacks or arguments. But even sarcasm or humor is no longer appreciated. A fellow known runner once made fun of the marathon office on facebook and his post was deleted. Forget that the dude was one of the best (and probably biggest) advocate for the group (the dude is well known in the community and run probably more than 50+ across the country). Most of the folks I know found its words funny, especially because it was also a sarcastic way to report the issues the club was facing. However, it seems that the leadership team did not appreciate this type of humor and censored the post right away. This was a clear first warning: our words must be supportive for the club, do not discuss issues and be polished and clean.

On my side, I invited the members to a training run I organized on a Sunday and put a disclaimer to notify this was not a supported event (which, basically, is probably a good thing to avoid having any issue is somebody hurt himself on the run). I got an e-mail right away from the club representative inviting me to “Please consider “re-wording” your disclaimer, or not having one at all“. The representative also indicated that : “As an Ambassador for SCRR, you are part of our staff so I would ask you to remember that when you write something for the public to see.“. Problem is: I did not want to be part of her staff, just be supportive for my friends. There was a willingness to control my freedom of speech for just inviting somebody to an event. But also asked me to adhere to a polished language.  Something totally clean, tasteless, boring. Again, by joining a fun group, who the hell wants that? We want fun, we want to make fun of ourselves, we want to have great time! Screw the conventional language, the SCRR representative, I am not part of this group to speak as in a professional conference! I am here to have fun, to speak, to feel free.

In other word, fellow ambassador and Comrade, please comply with the party policy!

Solving problems SCRR style!
Solving problems, SCRR style!

 

Willing to help? No thank you

Another area I tried to help: the website. Let’s face it: the Steel City website is poorly designed, mostly because of its CMS, wildapricot. The system does a poor job for resizing pictures, layout text, etc. If you are not a webdesigner, it can produce a really bad content that is compliant with w3c standards and has a browser-dependent rendering. In addition, there were some features the members wanted: a database of our routes, a directory of the members that plan to attend to run, having a mobile-compliant website, etc. The user experience was just a disaster and loading pages was just terrible and took a lot of time (some pages require to download more than 3Mbytes, which can kill your data plan if you are using only a mobile access with a limit).

All these issues are normal for a club that does not have a focus on technology: the club leaders are probably not web-designers and have something else to do. Maintaining the club, coordinating volunteers and organizing events take already a lot of time! I offered to help. I designed a database system to record and search for maps to run around Pittsburgh. I also proposed several times to help to improve the website. As I did a lot of webdesign and work on many online software, I think I could help. As a previous developer of mobile applications, I was thinking to make an online app to synchronize runners agenda and automatically check-in at training runs. Of course, I offered that at no cost. The offer was always turned down and never had any follow-up.

 

You have some ideas? They are no longer yours

When going in the first meeting, the new club representative asked us to come with two new perks for the members. I came with two perks in mind:

  • trail running 101: introduce members to trail running. Schedule two trail runs per month during the months, provide support, pacing groups and have sweeper to make sure nobody is left behind or is injured without support. Each run will end with discussions between runners to exchange advice, tips and good area/trails to run in the area. In other words, build a trail running community within SCRR. I proposed this idea at no cost, I just needed an acknowledgment and the ability to put my training on the calendar. After the meeting, I asked how to implement the idea. I was told that it was not a priority and will be implemented with a coach from Greensburg (and was not aware of that). This is clearly not the way I wanted my idea to be implemented and after being notified, it appears that the idea was no longer mine but was taken over the leadership team.
  • a training race for the fall season: many of us come to the Run for Gold race. It is a cheap, friendly race on a scenic trail that is perfect when training for a race in the fall and see where you stand in your training schedule. Unfortunately, it is far from Pittsburgh (2 hours to drive which is not convenient in the morning), so, one idea was to make a race with a similar characteristics (under $30 for non-SCRR and $20 for SCRR members for something around 15 to 20 miles) around Pittsburgh. I wanted to make a french race, had sponsors, a plan for nice finisher medals (Eiffel tower medals anyone?), specific wine-stop (forget the water kiddo!) and a friendly and friendly post-race party (want to refuel on wine and cheese?). The idea was proposed and immediately turned down. Several folks in SCRR told me they will be willing to help me to implement the idea and I already had enough potential volunteers. Such a perk would come for free and would probably attract more than a pair of socks. But it seems this was not the opinion of the new leadership team.

thankyouambassador

Let me attract you with rewards

During the meeting, it was reported that ambassadors and coaches will be rewarded if they support the club during wellness events. The rewards? Gift cards, coupons, etc. That was a huge miscommunication mistake and a lack of appreciation of the reasons people join this program. Coaches and Ambassadors did not come to get a reward and do not care about having a $25 gift card to shop for groceries. They are here to be active, be supportive for their communities. Not to be a cheap labor at the service of a poorly managed organization. Why should we rewarded? We love working for this club!

Even if the general idea was to reward people, it was one of the biggest mistake because it shows the real consideration from the marathon office to the coaches and ambassadors. They assume to be a cheap labor and execute what we were instructed by the new club representative. We were not considered as ambassadors able to act, help the group and support the members by implementing new ideas. From that moment, it appears clear that our ideas will not be implemented and the club will not let us give us the freedom we wanted.

SCRR is working hard to attract new coaches and ambassadors
SCRR is working hard to attract new coaches and ambassadors

Let’s focus on our core values …

What is the current problem with SCRR? The club is just trying to focus on numbers and quantity. Adding members. Such a policy an usual trap and pitfall when an organization grows and loses its core values. So, what are SCRR core values: a club for runners by runners.

Nothing else.

But among the months, many benefits were lost:

  • members no longer have training programs (unfortunately, the club tried to use runcoach last year but this was mostly a disaster as the software has plenty of issues and was not accurate)
  • maps are not as attractive as other clubs (fleet feet propose maps with a specific theme each week, which gives a context for your run and introduces specific area of the city)
  • pre- and post-run support is no longer there (no post-run nutrition and bathroom as discussed before).

On the other hand, during the meetings, the focus has been to reach out to new potential members and present SCRR as an organization that promotes wellness, friendship. This can be great, but this should definitively not be the first priority and not be at the cost of our core values. Having 10% discount on a fitness class? Some might appreciate but the majority is here to have support for running.

Because at the end, all what our members want is to run.

Making a great club would not cost so much. With an operating budget of $40k, this is easy to make an organization that does not sacrifice the core benefits. Many tasks can be done almost at no cost: there are many volunteers that will be more than happy to help. Of course, it requires a good organization and this would be the role of the club coordinator and representative: trying to find synergies and synchronize collaborations, not to over-control every contribution and turn them down. A minimal budget would be $10k to cover the basics, the actual budget could then offer a lot of margin to provide additional perks (such as access to a private space with bathroom for the Pittsburgh marathon).

Starting to change things is not difficult and can be done quickly with a very simple plan such as the following:

    • reach out the members. now and find out what they want
    • publish the financial numbers, show how the memberships are used and stop any rumors about potential misuse
    • classify the recommendations of the members
    • implement the changes

Based on that, it is possible to decide what changes will make sense and implement something that is requested by the members, not the leadership team. Because after all, the leadership is here to serve the members. Not the opposite. Without the basic understanding of what the members want, this is going to fail because there will be no approval from the members.

 

training

 

… and define who we are

There has been discussion about what is the structure of SCRR: an independent non-profit? a company? something related to the marathon office? For now, this is clear that the club is tightly related to the marathon office. But the question of having a real, independent club has never been debated. Each situation has his pros and cons and the members would have to choose what structure is the most appropriate:

  1. if the club is related to the marathon office, we can have support from this bigger entity. This can be useful to connect with other organization related to running and overall, wellness activities in Pittsburgh. On the other hand, this also create some issues:
    1. be transparent about the budget. Rumors have circulated during the last weeks that the marathon office considers the club as its ATM. One solution would then to publish the accounts. This would also shows who is paid and how much they are paid. Some SCRR members are paid by the marathon office but knowing exactly the details would help the members to know how the organization works internally.
    2. identify duties for all members. It means that the club must have an organization chart with established duties. I requested such an organization chart for the current club. After one month, I have been given a PowerPoint chart with the name of the ambassadors/coaches without the name of anybody from the marathon office nor any assigned duty. In other words, they just tried to avoid to discuss that.
  2. if the club is independent, it needs to define its own structure (a non-profit for example). The leadership team could be selected by a yearly election or anything else that will bring more transparency than the actual organization. On the other hand, such a structure will bring other challenges:
    1. coordinate efforts. Need to have several people for each activity with potential backup. This will also need to coordinate all efforts. On the other hand, this can be done efficiently and cheaply with an appropriate management system (and there are software to manage that with mobile- and web-applications).
    2. secure funding across the years. Make sure we have enough to support the club activities. On the other hand, with a $40k operating budget, there would be already enough to cover the club needs.

No matter the structure, each option has pros and cons. So far, the choice has been to be associated with the marathon office. However, the relation with this organization and showing a proof of independence has not be demonstrated. On the other hand, this is important to show that the club is dedicated to support its members and nobody else. Having evidence (publishing organization charts and the yearly budget online to all members) would then address this aspect and then stop any rumors or criticism from the members or potential competitor.

 

scrrbenefits

And now what?

For sure, this article will initiate discussions, animated debate and potential minor changes. After stepping down, several persons asked me to reconsider my decision. I was also offered to have a discussion from the CEO of the Pittsburgh Marathon. Yes, with the same person that endorsed an e-mail that invited me to repair the broken glass of their building and never show any consideration for our efforts. I do not think that this is going to make a difference and this three months experiment was probably already enough.

There will probably be some quick actions/efforts to defuse the bomb and stop the debate. I would be not surprised to have a group e-mail or many facebook to explain that change is coming for the best and that what is reported in the current post wrong. Unfortunately, actual coaches and ambassadors have evidence to support each argument developed here, you can just ask for it: this is your club and there is nothing to hide. But beyond that, the best proof is just the facts: the new leadership team took over the SCRR leadership since three months. Since then, nothing happened. The changes that have been implemented are not related to running and the probation period is over. Is implementing quick changes take so much time, we should then be worried of what would happen when bigger changes are required.

On my side, I will still stay in SCRR as a member (assuming I am still on the members list). I want to keep running, support my family, the people that keep inspiring me along these years. I do what I love, love what I do. I do stuff because I believe this is the right thing to do, not because somebody told me this is the way to go. And this is not going to change.

scrrjesus

Stepping down